Great. Now We’re Cancelling Bells…

BAD bell! BAD BELL. Nobody likes you, Bell. You’ve been bad!

Apparently Louisiana’s Tulane University believes in curses, or maybe it is the irredeemability of inanimate objects. What ever you want to call it, its theory is bats.

In a letter emailed to the Tulane community, President Mike Fitts and Board Chairman Doug Hertz said they were informed last week that the “Victory Bell” was originally used to direct the movements of enslaved people on a plantation. This means, apparently, that the bell itself is no longer fit to be seen or heard by decent people.

“It is terribly disheartening to learn that it is, in fact, a vestige of a horrific part of our nation’s past,” Fitts and Hertz wrote. “Now that we understand its history as an instrument of slavery, continuing to use this bell in a celebratory manner would run counter to our values.”

What values are those, exactly? No wonder substantial numbers among recent generations of Americans think that we are obligated to eradicate all images, symbols, memorials and references to the Confederacy, slavery, Jim Crow or other aspects of racial discrimination, if a piece of metal has to be banished because of what it was rung for over a 150 years ago.

The Victory Bell was cast in 1825 and donated  to the school by  a former Louisiana governor and Tulane law school graduate. Beginning in 1960, the bell stood in front of Fogelman Arena and was rung after Tulane basketball victories for decades. In 2011, the bell was refurbished and moved to the front of the university’s McAlister Auditorium, where, at least as far as anyone can tell, it has not been proselytizing students about the joys of slavery, ringing out “Dixie” all by itself, or attacking unwary students with its clapper. Nonetheless, I’m certain students would tell you that they won’t feel “safe” with a plantation bell around.

It’s a bell.

A bell isn’t good or bad, and it had and has no control over what it was rung for when it was rung. The fact that this bell once was used to manage slaves is called history. Tulane itself was founded as a public medical college in 1834 and became a full university in 1847. It was operated by and its students were taught by supporters of “the peculiar institution;” it graduated slave owners and the sons of slave owners. It was part of the Confederacy.  If the bell isn’t fit to be rung because of the racism of those who rang it, how does Tulane reach the conclusion that its buildings from that era shouldn’t be razed and its grounds sowed with salt?

Educators are supposed to teach rationality, not brainless, faddish emotionalism. Treating a bell as if it’s the spawn of Satan is the latter, and shows an administration devoid of judgment or responsibility. If a mob of students demanded that the Victory Bell be “cancelled” because of its bad taste to let itself be rung on a plantation before the Civil War, I would expect a university worth graduating from—I can’t think of any right now— to be capable of explaining to the teachable students why this was idiotic, and to give the remaining mouth-breathers 60 seconds to get back to their dorms or to find another place to attend.

My wife and I honeymooned at a lovely Charlottesville inn that had been established on the site of a plantation. We spent our nights in a little cottage that had begun as the slave overseer’s lodging. Funny, it never occurred to me or my wife that by staying there we were endorsing slavery, and that the structure itself was bad.

I’m going to file this depressing story in the “Is We Getting Dummer?” files. It is strong evidence that we is, and why we is. Our colleges are being run by politically correct, logic-impaired, conflict averse ding-dongs.


18 thoughts on “Great. Now We’re Cancelling Bells…

  1. Since the original colonies ALL initially allowed slavery, and at the time of the Civil War slavery was legal in 15 states, it seems only logical -progressively speaking- that those wounded by any reminder of slavery IMMEDIATELY leave those former slave colonies / states and avoid the oppression of those lingering “slavery vibes” in the air, soil or whatever source from which they emanate. Also, since the U.S. flag flew over slave states from 1776 – 1865, compared to only 1861-1865 for any Confederate flag, obviously, the Stars and Stripes must go!
    I halfway expect some group of the perpetually offended to take offense that freed slaves were not “colonized” back to Africa as Lincoln and some others advocated. Just imagine how much better their lives would be if they had not had to deal with the generations of institutionalized racism here and had instead been repatriated to the “homeland” where they could have developed their culture free of the white man’s oppression. Oh, what might have been!

  2. As I’ve indicated before, I do some fantasy writing, and it’s in the world of that writing that I expect to run into the concept of an item being so evil because of who used it or what it was used for (or both) that some of that evil will rub off on you if you use it, touch it, or just spend too much time in its presence. That’s where I get the concept of the Dark Saint, whose relics can corrupt you if you touch them.

    However, in the real world there’s no such thing and no such power. You won’t become vicious if you pick up Genghis Khan’s scimitar. You won’t suddenly feel the urge to kill Jews if you touch Heinrich Himmler’s pistol. You won’t turn into a vampire if you put on Vlad Tepes’ cloak. Yet these students are horrified by the sound of a BELL? Higher education is hopeless.

  3. “…how does Tulane reach the conclusion that its buildings from that era shouldn’t be razed and its grounds sowed with salt?”

    Careful! Don’t give them any ideas.

    I’m going to briefly play devil’s advocate here and point out that the relevant concept in this situation is “reputation,” also known as cognitive dissonance. The bell, like all bells, was created to be a signal: to call people’s attention to something, alert them of some event, or in this case to communicate information or commands.

    Now that people know what the bell used to be used for, it will tend to call their attention to its former purpose. The problem has nothing to do with the bell itself, but what the bell makes people feel, in the same way that people don’t want to live in a house someone has died in. The physical object is just as serviceable as ever, but humans are squeamish and awkward and want to cleanse themselves of any mental associations with the unpleasant or distasteful. If all they want to do is scapegoat the bell, then I say let them, if it makes them feel better. They can sell it to someone.

    My concern is that they won’t know where to stop scrubbing until they’ve scrubbed off their skin, or worse. Human history is filled with cruelty and sociopathy between and within tribes, under the euphemism of realpolitik. With few exceptions, all Earthly societies were founded on and developed by exploitation and rationalization. Destroying or hiding relics of the past can’t undo that history or make it right. Technology, the arts, language, and even biology have the indelible marks of oppression and crimes against humanity, even if the origins of those marks have been long forgotten.

    What I would recommend is that people figure out positive values to stand for and take pride in, and goals to fulfill those values to earn self-respect. Repurposing tools of oppression to help contribute to society not only smothers the reputation of the tools with the reputation of their new purpose, but also invokes a powerful counter to reputation: surprise. There is also a reinterpretation of the narrative, in that using a tool with an evil past for a neutral purpose gives off an evil impression, but using a tool with an evil past for a good purpose can represent the triumph of good over evil.

    I want people to say, “I’ll take this bell away from its former use, and do what I want with it. Its past will be a mere curiosity, for I will give it a new meaning and purpose. My actions here and now are what matter, for my works will continue to make the future better than the present, even as we in the present look on the past with dismay.”

    That is how you redeem an inanimate object. If anyone in business or academia understood how to use presentation mindset for resolving conflict instead of just for their own protection or aggrandizement, they would know that.

    • It appears that you are rationalizing the Genetic Fallacy.

      Instead of what you are suggesting, I would rather give them a remedial course in that fallacy. If they don’t get it, flunk them out.


      • Apparently I’m not as good at presentation mindset as I thought, since the numerous cues permeating the comment (“devil’s advocate,” “squeamish and awkward,” and just about everything after the second major paragraph) must not have made it sufficiently clear what my position on this issue is.

        Rationalizing the Genetic Fallacy? Certainly not. Explaining why people feel more comfortable abiding by it? Yes. Prescribing an effective way to get people to stop heeding it? Yes.

        As a deconstruction user, I understand the appeal of simply ridding people of unhealthy emotions using a remedial course. However, over the years I’ve learned that emotions and empathy don’t work that way, and the world might be a great deal more dangerous on an existential level if people could rewrite themselves without practice and repetition.

        The most effective path based on the systems we’re working with is, in my opinion, presentation mindset’s path of guile instead of brute force. Presentation is what lets us influence ambiguity, which we need in order to handle history and make sure we can deal with it in a healthy manner.

  4. Obviously the bell has to go. Its use conjures up the idea of forcing slaves to move to a different activity, controlling their movements. It’s not so much the actual bell as it is the use to which it was put.
    Now, just wait till educators figure out the racist implications of their bell schedules in schools throughout the country – using a bell to signal that students, many laboring there against their will, must start work or move to a different activity or, finally, end their workday. Bell schedules clearly are an instrument of slavery and a horrific reminder of our nation’s evil past.

  5. I’m a bit curious; who are these people that take it upon themselves to delve into things like the bell so they can demean the entire establishment that put the bell on the pedestal?

    It’s nearly impossible to destroy a society that’s built on a solid foundation; these anti-establishment people are intentionally cherry picking throughout our society finding anything they can that supports or represents the solid foundations of our society and smear it until it no longer has any psychological value in our society. They are trying to shred our society from the foundation up and their kind of irrational antiism is spreading.

    I keep on saying it and I won’t stop; the irrational social justice warriors have already won the battle of the minds across the metropolitan areas of the United States, damn near all college campuses and infiltrating everything with their irrational poison including local governments and school boards and this is just one more small example that piles on the evidence to prove my argument. It’s happening over and over again and it will not stop until there is a HUGE public blow up somewhere and the shit really hits the fan because some company or University didn’t bow to the irrational social justice army of lunatics.

    • Speaking of fighting the “establishment”; check out what’s happening in the Democratic party these days. This is interesting stuff folks! The people supporting Sanders anti-establishment revolution are “similar’ish” to the people that supported Trump in 2016 in that both groups are “anti-establishment” – Trump won the anti-establishment fight in the Republican party and has been fighting the left’s extreme establishment ever since, will Sanders win it in the Democratic party?

      Trump used the word “swamp” Sanders uses the word “establishment”; are they basically against the same thing – the underlying bureaucracy?

      Is there a trend?

      Are the majority of adults so fed up with the government bureaucracy that we’re all leaning towards anti-establishment – are we in for a major change in how we govern?

  6. I know of a widely-revered relic that was used to enslave Black Americans, invent Jim Crow laws, develop and empower the KKK, and enforce segregation. The history and origin of this relic is so steeped in racism and oppression that it makes this bell look like a statue of Harriet Tubman.

    I of course am speaking of the Democratic Party.
    Any so-called “progressive” who wants to tear down this innocent bell should aim higher if they want to be seen as consistent.

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